Staff Writer

City and town plow crews across central Maine geared up Wednesday for what promised to be the first significant snowfall of 2012.

A storm was expected to move into Maine this morning and deliver up to 10 inches of snow locally before winding down by nightfall. And while it is not the first snowfall of the winter, public works crews said a relatively mild season so far has left their budgets and sand and salt supplies in good shape.

“They’re all ready to go,” Augusta Public Works Street Superintendent Jerry Dostie said Wednesday, after his crews had finished routine maintenance on the city’s plow trucks. “We’ll take it as it comes. Hopefully it remains snow in this area. It’s much easier to deal with snow than a mix.”

Chris Legrow of the National Weather Service told the Associated Press that there will be snow, sometimes heavy, in the interior portions of Maine and New Hampshire, while the coast will see lesser amounts of snow or rain.

Gardiner Public Works Director Chuck Applebee planned to keep an eye on the forecast for last-minute changes in the storm’s track. A move west would mean more mixed precipitation, while a westerly track would keep enough cold air in place for pure snow.

“It changes rapidly,” Applebee said of the forecast. “It’s changed several times in the last several days.”

Applebee said Gardiner often marks the dividing point between coastal rain and inland snow.

“Gardiner is always about on the line,” he said. “If it is wetter snow it’s much more slippery and more dangerous. It’s more difficult to have a good clean scrape on the road.”

Hallowell Public Works Director Tony LaPlante said his crews were preparing for 6 inches or more of snow.

The latest weather report late Wednesday afternoon called for snow to begin falling during the morning traffic commute — around 8 a.m. or so.

“That makes it more difficult, LaPlante said. “It’s just part of the process.”

So far, this winter’s storms have typically been daytime events.

“If all storms started at 6 p.m. and were over by 3 a.m., it would be good,” Dostie said with a chuckle.

He said drivers have already had a chance to re-learn their winter driving skills during storms that arrived just before Halloween, Thanksgiving and an ice storm on New Year’s Eve.

“It’s the first storm in the middle of winter, but people have driven it already this year,” LaPlante said. “People forget (it has snowed) when it’s all brown out there.”

Applebee said the city’s snow removal budget took a hit during the few storms to hit the region.

“The couple of ice storms we had were expensive storms,” he said. “Ice eats up a lot of salt, but overall we’re under budget.”

LaPlante said Hallowell’s budget is holding up.

“We’re doing quite well, needless to say, but that can change in a heartbeat,” he said. “We still have a long way to go, but right now we’re in very good shape.”

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

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